A friend of mine is at the early stages of his job hunt for his first faculty position and already has 3 offers in hand – what can I say, he’s good! He’d be happy at any of the three positions, and each has appealing elements the other two don’t. While it’s reassuring for him to know he’ll find an appropriate job, he’s now in the tricky position of navigating the rest of his job hunt.
Beyond deciding between these three, there’s also the uncertainty that a better offer may come through at the “regular” time for his field – in the spring.
Don’t Rush To Accept an Offer
Some people have the idea that to show proper enthusiasm for a job offer they should rush and accept it immediately. When an employer makes an offer and gives you a deadline to respond, I’d take them at their word and assume you have that much time to respond. I can’t imagine a department being offended if they gave you 2 weeks to decide about an offer and you took the entire time.
If a position doesn’t give you a deadline, I’d assume there’s an implicit response period of around 2 weeks that you should touch base with them – not necessarily to accept but at least to give a time frame for the decision. I read about a student who was offered an internship and they didn’t mention a deadline. She got busy with school work and waited a couple of months then contacted them to accept, at which point the position has been filled.
You’re The Man Now Dog
You’re never in a more powerful position with respect to an organization than the period between them making you a job offer and you accepting it. Organizations are quite willing to ignore requests from established members who have done good work. They understand that good people in the middle of a job hunt will have a very easy time accepting another offer and they need to make their best offer to you if they want you. There are a few pitfalls you want to avoid, but for the most part, negotiating after an offer has been made gives you the best opportunities for the greatest gains you’ll ever get.
Not Much Need For Secrecy
My friend had been avoiding telling the universities he was applying to any information about other places he was applying and what they had offered him. It’s VERY unlikely that universities who have made you an offer will contact one another behind your back and collude against you. Given this, there isn’t much advantage to you as a job seeker to hide information about your offers and there are many advantages to revealing it.
Personally, I’d be pretty upfront to everyone involved about where I’m interviewing and what the offers I’ve received are. It’s human nature to want something when we see other people want it – universities are the same, and hearing that you’ve gotten an offer from another institution will likely improve your chances of getting an offer and increase the size of that offer.
A friend of mine was hired at UC Berkeley and part of their process was to tell him that they’d match offers from a list of universities they considered at the same level as them. My friend had an offer from another university that wasn’t on this list, which they still matched.
Obviously, you should never lie about an offer and claim that you have one that you don’t, or that the offer is for more than it is. Some offers are verbal while they’re being discussed and are only put in writing when the offer has been tentatively accepted – schools will understand this.
Delaying A Response
The school where I did my graduate work was a top-tier school and would often try to recruit “superstar” faculty members. The downside to this was there was quite a bit of competition for them. A number of the applicants held offers from my university for months while they went on other interviews and talked to other schools. This isn’t to say that holding an offer for months is necessarily a good idea or very common, but it does happen.
Just because a school gives you a particular deadline doesn’t mean it will be withdrawn after that date. You want to get back to them, but “I need more time” is a valid response. Some schools will play hardball and threaten to withdraw the offer after that date. Personally, I wouldn’t work for an organization that tries to manipulate me in such a way, but every job hunter needs to decide for themselves about that. I would find it VERY surprising if a position was withdrawn because an applicant asked for more time.
You don’t want to delay an offer from a school that you know you won’t accept. If an offer is already an inferior choice compared to all your other options, it is best to decline their offer and let them proceed with their job search or make an offer to their second choice candidate in a timely manner.
I would call the dean (or whoever has made you the offer) and say something along the lines of “Thank you so much for your offer. I’m very excited about this position and being a part of your school! I have a few other applications that are currently underway and would like to see all the offers before I make a definite choice. Would it be ok if I got back to you with my final decision by <DATE>?”
Don’t Be Rude
Although you’re in a very powerful position after an offer has been made, you definitely don’t want to be an asshole. Remember that you’ll be working with the people you’re negotiating with. Probably you’ll be working FOR the person you’re negotiating with. Keep that in mind during interactions. It’s also probably best to talk on the phone as much as possible – the tone of e-mails can be easily misconstrued.
Have you had multiple job offers before? How did you navigate your options?
After writing this post, I published a short (9k word) ebook on Amazon about how to negotiate a job offer. It isn’t specific to academic job offers but is an easy, fast read that should have some helpful information.